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Top Ten Texas Political Events of 2007

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This is the sort of things one does at the end of the year. Readers are invited to submit their own lists, or partial lists, in the comments. I’m sure they will need no encouragement to criticize mine. Happy New Year to all.

1. Speaker Tom Craddick rules that House members lack the power to remove the speaker from office and refuses to recognize Fred Hill for a motion to vacate the chair.

This was the most significant political event of the year, and it set the stage for a titanic struggle over the speakership — and possibly majority control — in the 2008 primary and general elections.

2. Rick Perry is elected chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association.

As head of the RGA, Perry becomes a player in national Republican politics; his endorsement of Rudy Giuliani could bring him a cabinet-level appointment if Giuliani wins the presidency.

3. Karl Rove resigns from the White House staff.

It is hard to imagine Rove apart from George W. Bush. Although he continues to advise the president (and John Cornyn), his ability to shape policy and affect decision-making is greatly diminished, and a hostile Democratic Congress still wants his head.

4. Democrat Dan Barrett wins the special election runoff in District 97.

Barrett’s unexpected upset victory in a Republican district in Fort Worth was bad news for Craddick and sent Democratic hopes soaring for more seats in ’08 — although Barrett himself will have a hard time holding on to his seat in the general election.

5. KKR buys out TXU.

The huge buyout of Texas’s largest provider of electricity leaves the state’s ratepayers, already burdened by the nation’s highest rates, facing an uncertain future at the hands of a company owned by a private equity fund. This item could have been written to ask why legislation providing protection to the public failed to pass in the closing hours of the Legislation.

6. Rick Perry, campaigning for Giuliani in Iowa, says George Bush “was never a fiscal conservative.”

His remarks said more about Perry than about Bush. Is he jealous? Bitter? Egotistical? Does he think he is the better politician?

7. The Texas Legislature tries to rein in Tx-DoT.

Opinions differ on whether a two-year moratorium on certain toll roads will be effective, but the legislation giving primacy to local toll agencies in Houston and Dallas signaled lawmakers’ opposition to foreign ownership of Texas roads.

8. Kay Bailey Hutchison announces she will leave the U.S. Senate before the end of her term.

Presumably, Hutchison’s pending departure signals her intention to run for governor in 2010. Whether she runs or not, her departure will give Rick Perry the opportunity to appoint her successor, pending a special election. It will also leave Texas without much seniority in the Senate, as the state’s junior senator, John Cornyn, has yet to complete his first term and faces a reelection battle in 2008.

9. Sharon Keller, presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, refuses to keep the court open after its normal closing hour of 5 p.m., shutting off a last-minute appeal by an inmate who was executed by lethal injection later that day.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court had granted stays of execution to two Kentucky Death Row inmates who were challenging the constitutionality of lethal injections. Keller, whose enthusiasm for the death penalty has earned her the nickname “Killer,” effectively blocked the inmate from appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which probably would have stayed the execution. Keller faces review of her actions by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

10. John Cornyn scuttles the immigration bill.

When Cornyn pulled out of a group of senators who were trying to find a compromise on the inflammatory issue, he effectively killed the bill for the session and assured that it would be a major issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.

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